The Grey is another example of why Liam Neeson is a brilliant “action hero.” I put action hero in inverted commas because The Grey isn’t the same type of film that we’ve already seen him in with Unknown, Taken and The A-Team. I said in my review for Unknown the reasons why Liam Neeson is a brilliant action hero and he has to tap into those qualities here.
I like my action heroes to be relatable and what I call an “everyman.” Liam Neeson doesn’t have huge muscles or karate skills and with the right knowledge or experience, anyone could do what his characters usually do in his movies. The Grey is no different. We aren’t watching a huge, muscle-bound man fighting wolves and trying to survive in the wilderness. We are watching a man, almost sixty, fighting to survive in the harsh climate and against the odds. It’s a role anybody could adopt.
It leaves The Grey with an added appeal, the same appeal I get when watching disaster films or even horror films, how long would I survive? It means you can relate to the characters slightly more and put yourselves in the same situations and roles that they are going through, after all, these people aren’t particularly special. It means I watched this film and wonder at what point I would be torn apart by wolves or how I would react when I’m being chased through the snow or jumping into a tree from a cliff-face. (Turns out I’d probably die very early.)
In fact, The Grey does a great job of developing its core characters so that you do care when the wolves are beginning to circle and attack the group. These aren’t the faceless, sometimes nameless, nobodies that a film relies on to highlight the threat. There are a few early killings but the film does a fantastic job of tightening the tension of the situation and keeping the audience on edge the whole time. Any character can be killed at any time. It makes for a nerve-wracking but engrossing experience.
Of course the character with most development is Liam Neeson’s and this film is a great vehicle for his new-found, action talents. He gets to do some great wolf-killing, as well as beating up his fellow-man, in true Taken style. This isn’t an all-out action film and is much more about the slow build-up then the action sequences, but when the attacks do come, the action is well-directed and blistering to watch. There is also something about Liam Neeson that whatever role he is in, particularly his “against-the-odds” hero, you want him to do well and are rooting for him from the start, investing you in the film even further.
Thats not to say that The Grey didn’t have its faults. There are slightly silly or incredulous moments that sometimes ask the audience to suspend their disbelief a little too much. It also suffers from not knowing how to end the film, again opting for an ending that’s slightly too “far-fetched” and coincidental. The actual final scene is fantastic but the build up to it a little silly.
Overall, The Grey is another brilliant film in what is becoming a great twilight to Liam Neeson’s career. Five years ago you would never have uttered the words action hero and Liam Neeson in the same sentence but he is firmly carved himself out a niche that is extremely watchable. The film itself is tense, intelligent and edge of the seat with a great central performance from Neeson and excellent support from everyone else involved. Maybe Taken 2 isn’t such a bad idea…
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)